Can aging be cured? Scientists are giving it a try

Scientists are great at making mice live longer.

Rapamycin, widely prescribed to prevent organ rejection after a transplant, increases the life expectancy of middle-age mice by as much as 60 percent. Drugs called senolytics help geriatric mice stay sprightly long after their peers have died. The diabetes drugs metformin and acarbose, extreme calorie restriction, and, by one biotech investor’s count, about 90 other interventions keep mice skittering around lab cages well past their usual expiration date. The newest scheme is to hack the aging process itself by reprogramming old cells to a younger state…

Scientists study healthy elders like my mother and track centenarians to figure out how they manage to defy the actuarial tables. Kristen Fortney, a 40-year-old biotech executive with a Ph.D. in medical biophysics, is putting big data and computational wizardry to the task. Most drug development for aging aims to fix something that goes wrong; Fortney is trying to understand what goes right.

“I’ve always approached it from the perspective of what’s going to have the greatest impact and what’s the low-hanging fruit,” Fortney says. “I’ve always believed that’s to copy what already works. There are already all these human examples of successful aging … individuals out there who are making it to a hundred and beyond, and their muscles still work, their brains still work, so we know it can be done.”

Fortney’s company, BioAge Labs in Richmond, California, analyzes blood and tissue stored in biobanks from Hawaii to Estonia. The specimens are linked to electronic medical records, so Fortney and her colleagues know the health outcomes of the people behind every vial of blood, and they search for biomarkers that distinguish those who’ve aged well. Machines measure each sample for up to tens of thousands of variables, including 7,000 proteins. (A decade ago, the best technology could pick out only a few hundred.) Using artificial intelligence, the scientists then identify possible targets for medication and search the reject piles of pharmaceutical companies for drugs that were developed for other purposes and shown to be safe but never released.

Fortney’s team has tested several dozen drug candidates in mice, and has two in clinical trials. One targets the immune system, and the other addresses muscle mass and strength. Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves drugs only if they prevent or treat a disease, and the agency doesn’t consider aging a disease, trials such as Fortney’s investigate a drug’s effect on an age-related condition. But the researchers almost always have grander ambitions.

For example, Fortney is evaluating a compound, code-named BGE-117, for age-related muscle dysfunction because it acts on a pathway involved in tissue regeneration, remodeling blood vessels, and other critical processes. But the hope, the company explains, is to target “multiple diseases of aging with large unmet needs, high prevalence, and huge markets.”




BioAge Labs



This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!